Saimee Jumaat will never forget the phone call he received from the Singapore Turf Club (STC) in early May. The former star jockey, who retired in 2012, walked into the management office and was handed the paperwork showing his application for a trainer's licence had been approved.
The 45-year-old went home to embrace his wife Nicole and share the good news. It was a step into the unknown, he told The Straits Times earlier this week. "I believe that I've got the tools and foundation and the connections," he said.
"The unknown is always nerve-racking, but I'm confident and I believe I can do it."
He has about 20 horses under his charge and saddled his first two, Raheeb and Amazing Man, last night at the Group 2 Aushorse Golden Horseshoe and a Class 4 race. Both finished unplaced but the former eight-time champion jockey, with more than 1,300 career wins, was up and running.
In his four-storey Upper Bukit Timah semi-detached house are reminders of past glories, with cupboards full of trophies and plaques. His major victories include back-to-back (1998 and 1999) Singapore Derby wins and victory at the 1996 Singapore Gold Cup. The crowning moment was the win aboard Ouzo in the inaugural $3 million Group 1 Singapore Airlines International Cup in 2000.
He and Ouzo are the only local rider and locally-trained horse to have won the SIA Cup before it was scrapped last year.
He said: "I still ride horses but not racing. I can have a feel of the individual horses and I train them according to how I feel.
A STABLE CONNECTION
When you ride the horse, you can feel it, unlike some trainers who have to rely on riders to give them feedback on how they feel about the horses.
SAIMEE JUMAAT, a trainer, on the perks of being a former jockey.
"That'll take me a long way because when you ride the horse, you can feel it, unlike some trainers who have to rely on riders to give them feedback on how they feel about the horses."
In 2014, two years after hanging up his silks and whip, he joined Australian trainer Steven Burridge as a stable supervisor and was promoted to assistant trainer in 2015.
It was an eye-opening experience, Saimee recalled, as he learnt about stable management and horse nutrition from Burridge and his wife Julie.
Last year, Saimee moved on to work under fellow Singaporean Sonny Yeoh as his assistant trainer.
Saimee's family are fully behind him. Nicole, a former stable supervisor and track rider for 10 years in Australia, and his three kids have been a regular presence at STC's Block 107B stables since last Saturday, his first official day.
His son Lachlan, 13, said: "It's important we support him because it helps to motivate him to keep working hard and do what he loves."
Nicole, who has watched her husband break his collarbones, ribs and shoulder blade during his career, said: "Now, we don't have to sit by the phone until the races are finished, hoping that everything's okay.
"It's not that you can't have an accident when you're working with horses, but the risks are a lot less in training."
There are different hurdles now.
Saimee said: "Putting a team together and getting staff to help me with the training of my horses, those are probably the biggest challenges, especially in Singapore. It's very hard to get people who are passionate about horse racing."
Saimee, whose late father Jumaat Nowe was the chief stable hand of trainer Garnet Bougoure, grew up with horses and that love continues to burn brightly, even if the role is an unfamiliar one.
He said: "I'm always on the jockeys' list, but I'm now on the other column.
"It's a beginning of a new chapter and I'd like to think that people want to see Saimee the jockey (as) successful as Saimee the trainer."
VIDEO Saimee Jumaat recounts his proudest day, winning the SIA Cup in 2000: http://str.sg/4atU